The Covenant That Binds
Note: After December 2, all Another Way columns will be posted only on my personal blog, FindingHarmonyBlog.com, a week after they are first sent to newspapers, rather than here on Third Way website. All current personal email subscribers to Another Way will receive my weekly column via MailChimp.
Another Way Newspaper Column for week of December 2, 2016
The Covenant That Binds
This past year we celebrated 40 years of being married. I say celebrated when I should say the anniversary trip we would have taken at the end of May (over our anniversary weekend) was thwarted by church commitments planned much earlier by others, that I felt I couldn’t gracefully get out of.
Our children all traveled home that weekend to eat out with us, and gave us a modest but hugely appreciated gift toward a getaway. They suggested some destinations and pointed to Groupon specials with the firm command to go somewhere different.
We settled on a location that had been on our second-tier bucket list to Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay several hours away where we’d never been but always wanted to go, accessible only by ferry. The islanders speak a charming but hard to understand dialect of English that comes from British roots in southwest England.
That apparently was not meant to happen either. The appointed weekend (with ferry reservations) for the end of September came with the blow up of bad weather in advance of Hurricane Matthew. The ferry boat people called us on Thursday morning saying we were the only persons still holding reservations for Friday’s ferry. It would not be making the crossing. They cancelled on us.
I cancelled the other reservations we had made for lodging over two nights, disappointed but not crushed. A hurricane was advancing, after all. Better safe than sorry, and glad not to literally be caught in the storms that came up the coast over the following days and weeks. Our celebration would have to be delayed. After 40 years, you take these ups and downs with more equilibrium than you do in the first years of your marriage.
Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity, a book published in September by Herald Press. (Full disclosure: I work for Herald Press but I did not serve as editor for this book nor do I review all books we publish.) Katherine and her husband Ben have been only married 15 years. I say “only” because it’s a short time to our 40, but long enough, certainly, to have tested their commitment and passed—with toasts raised.
I first read Katherine’s engaging writing in a 2015 article in Christian Centurymagazine about a crush she briefly encountered for a married friend and how she dealt with it—which became the magazine’s most-read online article that year. Katherine is an associate pastor of a church near Chicago and mother of two. Because the article so winsomely espoused fidelity in marriage, our acquisition people at Herald Press jumped on it.
So I loved the premise of the book but what really hooked me was Katherine’s honest and at points raw reveals of the fights she and her husband Ben have gone through. The early years of their marriage, as with most marriages, were especially rough, given some of the history they both brought to the marriage, but it was her description of times they came to harsh words and hollering (although never blows or separation) that so connected. Later in the marriage she began to see the patterns for their own particular fights: camping difficulties, travel mistakes, “seven to ten arguments directly related to buying or building Ikea furniture,” missing an exit on an Interstate, having a baby.
Many marriage books offer the same old same old, with one spicy chapter on you know, the “boom boom.” While Katherine is not given to euphemisms for discussing sex in general, she shares a hilarious example from a time she assembled a panel of “veteran” couples to discuss marriage, responding to anonymous questions that came from a mother’s group: “What can a woman do to make her husband feel loved—[not counting] boom boom?”
To get the answer and all of Katherine’s sanguine wisdom you’ll have to read the book—in fact, spoiler alert, I’m giving it to a number of my relatives for Christmas. It is, as Eugene Peterson, pastor and author says (yes, the man who wrote the multi-million selling The Message, the amazing paraphrase of The New Testament plus Psalms and Proverbs), “Without question, the very best book on marriage I have ever read—and I have read many.”
I often share a number of mini book reviews in early December for gift giving ideas. But I’m putting my energy behind Very Married this year, feeling our marriages deserve all the attention and love we can give them—for our selves, our spouses, our children. Committed marriages also greatly benefit the fabric of the community.
For a free bookmark from Very Married with more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Another Way Media, Box 363, Singers Glen, Va. 22850
Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis. She is the author of nine books, most recently Whatever Happened to Dinner, and has written Another Way since 1987. She also keeps a blog at www.FindingHarmonyBlog.com